A Travellerspoint blog

Zululand

The Roundhouse

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We have an early flight to Durban this morning and then we are off to KwaZulu Natal. This is an area known as "the garden province". It stretches along a shoreline beside the Indian Ocean and shares borders with Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho. It has a history of legendary Zulu kings and living Zulu traditions. Land of Ghandi and Tutu! Here are some quick facts: This culture can have more than one wife. Cows are offered to pay the bride price which is typically R5000 or equal to 11 cows. This shows that he can support the wife. The first night, the bride spends with the uncle to learn how to be a good wife. They are very spiritual people. They live in round houses so the spirits cannot trap them in a corner. They are known for their beautiful beadwork.

The St Lucia Wetlands is a World Heritage Site where we board a boat for a sunset cruise this afternoon. Of course there are refreshments involved as we cruise down the river. We spot different types of birds and large pods of hippos. They are really fun to watch as they yawn and whack their little ears at you.

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On the way to the hotel we are cautioned to keep lights low. They have vampire mosquitos here. A few instructions:

* Close doors immediately and keep lights off
* Flush toilet before sitting, otherwise you become a ripe target. Mosquitos like to congregate under the rim of the seat.
* Keep belongings, including shoes, off the floor....tarantula spiders like to crawl into corners of shoes and suitcases.
* Use the "Peaceful Sleep" plug-in for repelling mosquitos at night
* Mosquito netting will be let down when they turn the beds down in the evening

These "suggestions" apply from here on throughout the rest of the trip. On safari, long sleeves, insect repellant and sunscreen....A MUST!
We were given sunscreen and repellant in our toiletry kits. (They are serious!)

....and with a "good night, sleep tight"....we all head to bed for (hopefully)...a restful night's sleep....

oh...btw... 5 AM wakeup, 5:15 luggage out and breakfast, 6:00 safari! Wear warm layers, it is cool in the morning!

Posted by Linda Fluckiger 08:20 Archived in South Africa Tagged st lucia natal zulu estuary durban kwazulu roundhouses Comments (0)

Herd it thru the grapevine

The Cape Winelands

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What could be better than a beautiful sunny day and a driver that takes you on a wine tour! We are heading toward Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek....wine country in Cape Town affectionately known as "the Cape Winelands". The wine is very good here and the Africans love to serve it to you! Even on our South African Airways flight, the wine was free-flowing and.... free!

Paarl (means Pearl in Dutch) and KWV Wine Growers Association is located here. This region claims to have the "Cape Dr." (the SE wind that blows
the pollution off the Cape out to sea) which creates the perfect climate for growing superb grapes. We are welcomed by candlelight in the wine cellars..a very nice ambiance for us, however, a bit nerve-wracking for our hosts since they've lost power shortly before we arrived. If they didn't tell us, we would never have guessed. The cellars were doused in candlelight which gave the tour a very relaxed atmosphere.

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The tour is extensive and very interesting. Barrel after barrel, some piled on top of each other, barrels in nice neat rows...filled with red and white wines in the storerooms, they almost look like art sculptures. The paparazzi are at work...snapping away! There are also VERY large barrels and the largest, from Portugal, (5 Vats total) holds 204574 Ltrs, and would take 750 years to empty @ l bottle per day. To have these Vats moved to South Africa they had to be disassembled. Every slat had to be taken apart, numbered and put back together when they arrived. They were so happy when the project was completed that 60 people could dance in it...that is how big it is. I also notice a distinct scent of sweetness in the cellars..(obviously from the grapes) but also a combination of the grapes and the wooden barrels. It permeates the air and is actually very pleasant. Many of the barrels in the cellar are hand carved. Beautiful artistic designs....

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We are led to an area under a grape arbor (of course) for the wine tasting. There is a long table....well....have a look....

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We are taught to : Sniff, sip, swirl, breath through mouth, swallow and then exhale through the nose.

We are a fairly large group (herd) and the tasting begins...there are white wines, red wines, a sherry and an African Cream Sherry (yum). First we taste the wine, one by one, trying to distinguish the citrus, pineapple, kiwi and vanilla characters of each wine. We are also given small packets of sweet nuts, biltong (an African jerky), chili nuts and Droewors (an African spicy sausage). We sip each wine with it's coordinating "snack". There is a definite change in the "tanin" flavor. We all choose a favorite and now the hard part....which to bring home. Since we've only just begun I decide on carrying only 1 bottle with me throughout the rest of the trip. Miles to go and only so much room in the suitcase. I know we can purchase South African wines in the States so...that is what I shall do. I opt for the African Cream Sherry...(memories of my beautiful trip will come to mind when I sit and sip this on my porch).

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Funny story...I wanted to take home one of the paper placemats describing the different pairings of wine and snacks. Rick offered to get a clean placement for me to bring home...which he did. When we looked at it he said, "Oh no, she gave me one with stains on it". "I' ll be right back", he said. When he returned, he explained that he told the woman we would like a fresh one with no stains and she replied "Oh no, dear!... that is part of the design!" And it was!

Onto Boschendel, our next vineyard. A long drive through the vineyards, surrounded by mountains, blue skies overhead...gorgeous (even without drinking the wine!) The location is beautiful here, thatched-roofed, dutch colonial homestead. Our wine tasting was
al fresco under a big old oak tree. Rick and a few non-drinkers enjoyed an Appeltiser. Halfway through the tasting, Rick tried to remove the top of the bottle for another sip. He then tells me "I need to slow down, I'm drinking too much"....the top was already off.

I would love to purchase some wine, however, not convenient to carry when travelling the country. I only purchase some artisinal chocolate to bring to our hostess this evening.

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We are now gathered together and carted off to the prison where Mandela walked to Freedom. Quick photo stop here..

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Franschhoek is our stop for lunch; a quaint Dutch Colonial town. You cannot buy into the area here unless you are related to someone. (Too bad...)!

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And look what we spot in a tree...

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Off we go to the University Town of Stellenbosch where the students refer to the administration as "The Kremlin"! Another quaint town with a large cafe culture, where the buildings are painted white and unique, upscale shops line the streets.

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Back to Cape Town to freshen up before we go for dinner. We are invited, tonight, to a local family home for a home-cooked meal. This family opens their home to meet travellers, exchange stories and discuss what life is like for everyday folk. Dinner consists of curried chicken, rice, veggies and ice cream for dessert. Wine is served as well. There are 14 of us so there has been some cooking going on. This family receives guests twice per week and receives a small stipend for this service which helps bring a little money into the house.

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We "heard" this was a great tour and it certainly was!

Posted by Linda Fluckiger 05:36 Archived in South Africa Tagged paarl stellenbosch franschoek Comments (0)

Made in South Africa

Cape Town Part 2 White African

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Table Mountain..National World Heritage site and just recently elected to become one of the New National Seven Wonders of Nature. The mountain consists of Sandstone and Cape Granite formed by glacial and volcanic action millions of years ago. It is estimated to be over 6 times older than the Himalayas and is considered one of the oldest mountains in the world. There are many reasons to come to Cape Town but Table Mountain is very high on the popularity list and it is on ours for sure. We wanted to make the attempt to get up there yesterday but due to high winds and the fact that visibility was poor (Table Mountain was covered with the tablecloth as they say in Cape Town) and was shut down for a few hours, we proceeded with other activities. Today, though, is another story. We are up and "at 'em" bright and early. We have bluebird skies (lucky us) views of mountains, the ocean, the Cape Peninsula. We ride the cable car to the top, the most modern gondola we've ridden on yet. Once inside and in motion, the floor rotates 360 degrees so everyone can get a chance to enjoy the view from all sides. From the summit we have the most magnificent views of the ocean, the mountains, the Cape Peninsula and even Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned). Once on top, you can also take free guided plateau walks which last from 15 -45 minutes. Rappelling is another activity available (not for the faint of heart).. I WAS considering but decided I will try it next time I visit. I was told "Indecision is temporary, regret is permanent..."when in doubt, paddle out...", can you guess? Did I or didn't I? Definitely a MUST SEE!

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Milnerton Lighthouse is on the agenda and is located near a beautiful beach on the Atlantic. We dip our toes in and take advantage of some photo opportunities. Refreshed and ready to continue on our journey we pass the Malay Quarter, the Bo-Kaap (which is the Muslim area) and stop at the V & A Waterfront to visit a diamond manufacturer. Africa is well known for their beautiful diamonds so we had to have a peek (when in Rome....roam!). We were served wine, given the grand tour and led into their showroom. A few of us had some more wine and found the tour more enjoyable than expected (maybe it was the wine). V & A Waterfront is a popular tourist destination which boasts a huge mall, endless choices for dining and a ferris wheel. It's a lively place and great for people watching as well

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District 6 and Langa are areas where people who were trying to immigrate to Cape Town from all over the African continent received (to put it mildly) "squatters rights". Over 20,000 people were forcefully moved from District 6 to other areas in the early 1900's. This was a chaotic time for people in this area. Segregation between Malays, Blacks, Whites, Coloreds, Men, Women, Women with children were all divided into separate areas. The Malays were not moved far...they went to the upper Cape. Africans were taken to Langa and were migrant labor for the rural areas. They worked on farms, orchards and forests. Some, skilled, became boat and shipbuilders, the most unskilled...fishermen. In these "camps" they were allowed to practice their culture and religions. The oldest of these townships is Langa. Langa and surrounding camps still exist today. Things have not changed much...dangerous areas that you should not visit without a guide. We explored this township...with our guide. We first visited a cultural center that was erected by the citizens of the town to provide a safe haven for their children after school. With the help of donations and leadership from different organizations, this town succeeded in building a community center out of pallets. The people involved create an environment of learning and help the children use their imaginations to create a happier world. There is talent in these parts. I purchased a beautiful piece of artwork here...couldn't help myself. Everything including the building is "Made in South Africa". There is a sense of pride amongst the students and teachers which was so wonderful to feel. There is hope...and this is where tourism helps...it helps keep the hope alive and creates motivation to keep moving forward. Keep the dream alive...

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It will take years to get part way to the standard of living that we enjoy. They have no comprehension of what that is like...not to have to worry about safety, food, water, shelter, health. They are thankful for the smallest gift... be it monetary or, for example, a lanyard with your name badge. They consider that a tremendous gift. We, on the other hand, have no comprehension what THAT feels like....(aren't we lucky!). Community centers are being started in many areas. Some more successful than others.

While we are visiting, we are invited to take an African drumming class which I lOVE! I also volunteer to play the zylophone. Our guide really appreciates my enthusiasm during my recital and dubs me the "White African"! I need to get this on a T-shirt!

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Skye (our guide) had an incident at his home last night. Again, danger and corruption is big here. He does have security gates around his house but someone broke into his home last evening. Skye's wife shouted that someone was breaking in and luckily Skye was home...he fought the guy who then ran off but Skye did have an injury and now has to work harder to save more money to construct heavier security around his house. His wife went to live with her parents for awhile since it is now unsafe. These hoodlums usually return. The police force can also be quite corrupt and the people are never certain who is on the up and up... and who is not. Again..how lucky are we!

Skye then leads us down the street for an experience of what take-out is like in Langa. If you are hungry...just head for the sheep lady...(no pun intended)......take a look...

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We have worked up an appetite and return to the waterfront for dinner. We grab fish and chips at a bar and grill and enjoy some smooth jazz as we dine. Four of us decide to share a cab back to the hotel. We were told the ride should run us approximately R50 but our driver charges us R70. We have a feisty Italian with us who absolutely refuses to pay the fee. The driver (in his African accent) says "Mama....oohhh...it is Sunday, after 9:00, we charge R70." We ask him to put on the meter but he refuses. Now he is driving like a maniac thru the deserted streets. Our feisty Italian gal orders him to stop the car immediately and let us out. He ignores the demand and continues driving. He reiterates the fact that it is Sunday, past 9 PM and the fee is R70. We are helpless and the Italian is shouting "I dont want to hear your sob story, let us out right now. We are not paying you R70. You will get R50".. All of a sudden we land in front of our hotel and jump out. The Italian's husband (poor guy) sitting in the front seat, gives the driver the R50 and is considering giving him more when the Italian "Mama" shrieks "NO! " The driver pulls a u-turn and speeds away! I ask "Lucille" after the fact, wasnt she scared at all having seen and heard about the crime here. She says "it never came to mind. I hate being ripped off"! Mama Mia!

Well, at least we got back safe and sound, not without incident, though, and not without a good story....and I shlepped my beautiful artwork "Made in South Africa" through it all!

🎶 Memories.....🎶

Posted by Linda Fluckiger 13:41 Archived in South Africa Tagged town a & cape district v waterfront quarter 6 malay bo-kaap langa Comments (0)

The Mother City

Part 1: Cape Peninsula

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After a long flight from New York and a good nights sleep we are off on a Cape Town city tour. Cape Town which is called the Mother City...why? I have not yet learned the official reason but the locals claim it is because it takes nine months to get anything done. Everything moves two paces slower than in other places but the good thing is that you are forced to slow down. Things still get done but in a much less rushed and harried way. Cape Town is gorgeous, a beautiful city with beaches, mountains, and sunshine...but don't be fooled! Cape Town looks and feels like a modern city with first class dining, modern hotels, shops and malls...but...it is still very much in a developing country. There are political issues and serious economic problems ( as are everywhere)...there are racial tensions. However, as foreign investment pours into South Africa the future looks optimistic and the locals appreciate the tourism.

This week is the famous bicycle race in Cape Town. On the way down to breakfast we meet 2 racers from Austrailia in the elevator (complete with cycle) heading out to practice. They told us there are over 35,000 cyclists from all over the world in this race and it covers 109 km. It takes place here every year. Cape Town is buzzing, no vacancies anywhere, reservations needed for everything. It's quite the event and adds some excitement to our trip as well.

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We start out the day with a drive to Hout Bay. On the way we see groups of three to five men hanging around on the side of the road. It's 8:00 in the morning. These "men on the side of the road" are for hire! You can stop and choose how many men and which of them you need to help with things you need done. They are looking for work so you can hire them to help paint, garden, build, cut trees down, whatever your need may be. You negotiate the price. Hout Bay ("Wood Bay") is one of the busiest fishing harbors in the Western Cape. As soon as the fishing boats come in with their catch of snoek and tuna, buyers are at the ready to purchase the "catch of the day". The morning is overcast with a dense cloud of fog sitting above the Bay. We watch the fisherman and buyers doing business. Two men are entertaining a crowd of tourists by drawing in the seals and of course, there are vendors everywhere selling their wares.

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We continue on to Chapmans Peak Drive...the views are stunning even with the fog. All along this winding road are cliffs of natural stone on one side, the bay on the other. Passing thru several small towns we see groups of cyclists training for their big day. We stop at the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve which boasts 17,300 acres of flora and fauna. Over 1,100 species of plants thrive in this area. It is known to have the highest plant concentration on planet earth. We see rheboks, ostriches and I even spot a baboon walking on the side of the road. This country is the leading Ostrich Farming area in the world. Some interesting facts regarding Ostriches : They can weigh up to 300 lbs, lay up to 50 eggs per year, can run up to 55 mph and they can live up to 70 years (who knew?). Heading further south we arrive at the Cape Point Lighthouse which is the farthest south you can travel on this continent and is the meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic oceans. A funicular takes us for a short ride from the base to the top of the mountain, then a few steps up to the lighthouse. From this vantage point the views are spectacular.

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Continuing along the coastline of False Bay, we pass thru Simon's Town to Boulders Beach to see the penguin colonies. There are lots of babies and many eggs waiting to hatch. The adults are protecting them from the seagulls which are constantly hovering overhead trying to sweep down to steal the eggs.

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On the way back to the hotel we stop at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens at the foot of Table Mountain. Beautiful gardens and views.
Take a look....

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Posted by Linda Fluckiger 05:19 Archived in South Africa Tagged gardens penguin beach mountain of town south africa national good botanical cape hope colony boulders muizenberg simons kirstennosch kirschenboch Comments (0)

March!

The Majic Hour

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March is right around the corner....the month St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland, the month known for the "wearing of the green", and this
year, the month we set off for South Africa! It will be green and lush In that part of the world, end of summer, so we are right on track as far as "green" is concerned. Much research has been done for this trip, the itinerary is set, we have had our vaccinations for yellow fever, hepatitis A, typhoid fever....(sounds like fun, doesn't it?!)...better safe than sorry! The flight from JFK to Johannesburg is 15 hours with another 2 hour flight to Cape Town from there. Review after review has been read... and caution heeded. Our belongings have been divided into two suitcases. Our carry-ons contain all the comforts we could possibly need...travel pillow, inflatable neck pillow, eye mask, ear plugs, headphones, inflatable footpillow, iPad..loaded with podcasts, books, music, meditation apps, snacks, slippers, hydrating face cream, etc. etc. ( totaling 18 lbs each...maybe less). We begin our dose of anti- malaria meds on Sunday... "No pain, no gain!"....the safaris, the animals, food, scenery, people and culture will be the great reward! Oh, and let us not forget the wine! This shutterbug will be taking advantage of every photo opportunity that comes her way! The countdown has begun. Forward...March! Stay tuned.

Posted by Linda Fluckiger 15:44 Archived in South Africa Tagged town cape johanessburgh Comments (2)

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